199. Telegram 22 From the Consulate General in Karachi to the Department of State 1 2


  • Discussion With President Bhutto January 3 Release of Sheikh Mujib Rehman


  • Karachi 010 and Islamabad 0002
Summary: Bhutto advised me he planned to announce today unconditional release of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman who presently in Rawalpindi. Modalities of actual release to be worked out. Reported that Sheikh’s incarceration had been in same prison and same cell as that in which he (Bhutto) had been detained. Sheikh release being undertaken without commitments or pre-conditions. Voiced approval U.S. diplomatic efforts during past months and believes same would have been fruitful had additional time been available. Bhutto believed efforts doomed by Indian sub-continent objectives. China and Russia view release of Mujib with favor. Bhutto plans to visit China around end this month.
I met with President Bhutto in his Karachi residence at 1100 hours local time. The conversation which ensued lasted for approximately 45 minutes. Among other matters discussed was the aforesaid subject. Septels follow.
The President introduced the conversation after appropriate social amenities by saying that he had called me to Karachi in accordance with our heretofore agreed policy of keeping USG fully informed on major developments as they unfurled. Today he said he wanted USG to be knowledgeable aforehand of his determination, albeit the same contained certain politcal risks to his new administration, of publicly announcing, during the speech which he planned to deliver in Karachi today at 1500 hours local time, the unconditional release of Sheikh Mujib Rehman who is now with certain members of his family and with Kamal Hossain in Rawalpindi. In answer to my question concerning the procedure he contemplated in effecting the actual release, the mode of travel, etc., Bhutto said that he was not prepared to discuss these aspects since the modalities thereof would be worked out between him and Sheikh Mujibur Rehman and desires of the Sheikh would have primacy. He advised me however that he would keep me throughly informed as plans develop.
In response to my inquiries concerning the Sheikh’s incarceration, Bhutto advised me that ironically, the Sheikh had been held in the same prison and the same cell in which he heretofore had been detained. As soon as he assumed powers Bhutto said that he had the Sheikh removed from his cell and taken first to a guest house where he stayed one night en route to Rawalpindi. Bhutto commented that as far as he was concerned and in accordance with what he had told Mujibur, He (Mujib) was a “free man” upon his arrival in Rawalpindi: further, he could leave his Pindi residence forthwith if he so desired. However, he went on to point out to Mujib that circumstances mitigated against his public exposure prematurely, to which Mujib agreed wholeheartedly.
Bhutto’s report of his conversations with Mujib are most interesting and not unexpected. He said that Mujib had been virutally cut off from all outside sources of information while he (Mujib) assumed that a war of some major proprotion had gone on, and that “perhaps a part of East Pakistan had been occupied by india, “he had no idea of the magnitude of the “tragic defeat” which Pakistan had [Page 3] suffered. Bhutto then went on to note that he had briefed Mujib as fully as possible during their conversation and had made available to him newspapers, radio and a TV. The President reported that during the conversation he in no way made any demands upon Mujib, neither did he ask for any commitments on Mujib’s part, nor did he establish pre-conditions for the Sheikh’s return to the political arena. Further, he noted that Mujib seemed “almost stunned” by the changed circumstances in which he found himself, and appeared highly despondent to learn that Indian troops occupied all of the east. Bhutto also noted that during his conversation the Sheikh, referring to Indian occupation and domination, repeated time and time again that he would not be one to accept alms.
In a general discussion of U.S. policy during the crisis period beginning March 25, Bhutto not only expressed satisfaction thereof but opined that GOP needed the continuing goodwill and support of the United States. He then went on to say in regard to U.S. policy, that as early as April. He, too, had been working towards a political accommodation between the East West Wing through the constitution of a political government which would come into being by a transfer of power. Qte the use by India of its armed might was unnecessary and unjustified, unqte he said. The efforts of the United States to move Yahya in the direction of political accommodation was not only laudatory but would long be remembered. He added that given time the U.S. effort would have been fruitful since a civilian government would have taken over on December 27 and Mujib’s release would have been effected therewith and negotiations could have been instituted. He added that his effort however was doomed by the fact that “India never recognized the partition of the sub-continent in 1947.”
Penultimately, Bhutto said that he had sounded out both China and Russia regarding their views as to the release of Mujib and had found both in accord. Also, having noted USG’s position and its hope for a form of political accommodation as the ultimate object, referring to his discussion with Secretary Rogers, Bhutto said that should the occasion arise during his speech today he might make [Page 4] reference to the posture of both Russia and China re Mujib and USG’s “laudatory” role.
As the conversation drifted off on the way to the door. Bhutto informed me that given a continuing degree of stability in Pakistan, it was his hope to expect an invitation from Chou En-Lai to visit China around the end of this month.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 29 PAK. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Repeated to Islamabad.
  2. Ambassador Farland met with Pakistani President Bhutto who was planning to announce that day that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman would be released from prison.